The punishment has been handed down, and I suppose it was about right. Kind of.
Udonis Haslem’s flagrant 1 for his two-handed club on Tyler Hansbrough, which came nowhere near the basketball, was upgraded to a flagrant 2 and a one-game suspension. The hit is widely believed to have been retaliatory — for Hansbrough’s earlier flagrant 1 against D-Wade a minute earlier. Hansbrough’s foul was upgraded to a flagrant 2, but no suspension was tacked on.
Dexter Pittman’s sickening, intentional elbow to Lance Stephenson late in the fourth quarter, was also upgraded from a flagrant 1 to a flagrant 2, coupled with a 3-game suspension.
This means Haslem will miss the pivotal game 6 back in Indiana tomorrow night, giving the Pacers a better chance to extend the series to 7. Pittman probably wouldn’t have played anyway, unless there was garbage time, so his suspension is moot.
- The punishment was about right. Hansbrough’s foul probably didn’t deserve to be upgraded to a flagrant 2 — but they did it to avoid looking like they were only punishing the Heat. I have no problem with that. He did, after all, draw blood. Yes, it was excessive (hence the flagrant 1), but it was the follow through that was excessive, not the initial contact — which was with the basketball. Hansbrough made a play at the basketball, and as the replay showed, he only made contact with Wade’s head after Wade spun around in mid-air. I also don’t read anything into the low five Hansbrough exchanged with Amundson after the foul. Amundson stuck his hand out because Hansbrough stopped Wade on the play, and Hansbrough obliged. Nothing sinister in that.
- I could have accepted a non-suspension flagrant 2 upgrade for Haslem as well, but can’t argue with the suspension because he never came close to the basketball and he swung both arms down hard, intentionally, on Hansbrough’s shoulder and neck/jaw area. Back in the day it would have been a great playoff foul, but I suppose we need to live according to the rules of the day.
- As for Pittman, 3 games is too light. Previous elbows, before the one MWP unleashed on James Harden, got around 1-3 games, so in that context it seemed about fair. But Pittman’s elbow to Stephenson’s neck was clearly intentional, malicious and cowardly — obviously as payback for Stephenson’s “choke sign” on Lebron earlier in the series. The wink he gave afterwards said it all. I get MWP got 7 games because of his rep, but this should have been at least 5 games for Pittman because MWP’s suspension had set a precedent.
- No doubt Miami fans will be outraged because it looks like only the Heat got punished. But it was fair if you look at the plays objectively. I already explained the differences between Hansbrough’s and Haslem’s respective fouls.
- Besides, Haslem may have cryptically admitted guilt when he said this: “I ain’t never played to hurt nobody.”
- Haslem’s absence will help the Pacers a lot. After losing Bosh, the Heat needed someone (apart from Lebron and Wade) who could consistently hit an open jump shot, rebound and provide hard-nosed defense. Haslem provided all three in the Heat’s game 4 and game 5 victories.
- That said, it might still not be enough for the Pacers to extend the series to 7. Lebron and Wade appear to have hit their stride, and once those two get going, it’s hard for any team to match up. Additionally, Granger and West are both day-to-day with an ankle and knee injury, respectively. It’s going to take one heck of an effort to beat the Heat, let me just put it that way.
- Pittman’s absence will make no difference. If the NBA really wanted to punish the Heat they should have forced Pittman to play all 48 minutes for the next 3 games, not suspend him.
- All this “Pacers are dirty”, “Pacers started it” and “Pacers deserved it” business is just plain wrong, as it was last year in that series against the Bulls. The Pacers have played hard, rough, and never-back-down basketball. They’ve delivered hard fouls, talked trash, got in people’s faces and played with a chip on their shoulder all series. Annoying for the opposition, absolutely. “Fake” tough guys? Probably. I would despise them too if I went for the other team. But “dirty” they are not. Despite this “underappreciated” underdog performance they’ve put on, the Pacers have not committed a single dirty play all series. I challenge anyone to point to a play that can categorically be called dirty. You won’t find one. There is a fine distinction, but a significant distinction, between “rough” and “dirty.”
- I find it amusing that Heat fans are saying that the “Pacers can’t handle what they started.” The opposite is actually true. The Pacers have played chippy basketball but they’ve refrained from getting dirty. They’ve toed the line. It’s the Heat that haven’t been able to handle the rough play and gotten dirty. Granger two technicals were for retaliating against cheap elbows from Lebron. Wade inexplicably got a free pass when he leveled Darren Collison frm behind on the break and only got a flagrant 1. Haslem’s and Pittman’s fouls speak for themselves. And still, the Pacers have continued to respond with hard basketball plays. The Pacers haven’t even flopped or tried and sell the fouls like the the Heat have done. The recipients of the dirty plays — Collison, Hansbrough and Stephenson — all popped straight back up after some brutal shots. You think Wade or Lebron would have done the same?
But at the end of the day, the talent gap between Lebron/Wade and the Pacers is likely to be too much to overcome. You have to give credit where it’s due, and these two have been lights out sensational. Truly two of the best basketball players on the planet (and one of them is arguably heads and shoulders above everyone else).
Still, you can’t help but shake your head at this comment from Lebron on ESPN: “We all protect one another. We don’t do anything that’s retaliation or anything that’s dirty.” Note to the King: you want to have a look at Haslem and Pittman’s fouls again.